Oklahoma farmer have a lot of choices for 2014 cotton variety planting but they also have a useful tool to help them make decisions.
The website ntokcotton.org shows which varieties have performed best. The site includes information from both large and small plot trials conducted on cotton varieties across Oklahoma, says Randy Boman, Oklahoma State University cotton research director and Extension cotton program leader at the Southwestern Research and Extension Center south of Altus.
Those trials also give growers a good idea of profit potential for a given variety, he said. The difference in net value between the variety at the bottom of the trial and the one at the top is typically more than $100 per acre.
"Several varieties at the top of the trial may not be significantly different," he said. "And many of the varieties perform well across a wide geographical area."
Disease resistance has become an increasingly important concern for farmers. There is some Verticillium wilt in the state, but not a lot of Fusarium wilt or bacterial blight and there isn't a fungicide for spraying over the top for wilt control, he said. Genetics is the best, and only, answer.
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The key for variety selection lies in knowing field conditions, history and management capabilities and then studying variety trials to determine the best match for a particular field.
"Farmers have a lot of varieties to choose from," Boman said. "Many are arguably the best varieties we have ever been able to plant."
Top five concerns
Cotton farmers surveyed by Cotton Incorporated stated the top five items to consider when putting in a cotton crop include input costs, herbicide-resistant weeds, variety selection, drought and heat tolerance and early weed control.
All have some link to variety testing, Boman said. The goal is to have a complete variety package to reduce production risks. Three factors, agronomy, pathology and entomology, are all considered when testing cotton varieties.
Agronomic traits should mean good production potential across a large geographic area. Pathology should include disease and nematode resistance, and entomology includes resistant traits like Bollgard II, WideStrike and TwinLink.
"All of these characteristics should be part of the variety selection process," he said. "Storm resistance is also a big deal in the Southwest."
Cotton variety selection has come a long way since 1995 when 100 percent of all varieties planted were conventional. Since then, Oklahoma farmers plant 100 percent transgenic varieties including Bt and WideStrike varieties; 98 percent of cotton planted is stacked varieties including both herbicide tolerant and insect resistant varieties, Boman said.
Production potential and quality are important concerns when selecting a variety. The benchmark has changed over the years. The minimum considerations now are 35 staple, 28 grams per Tex, 3.8 to 4.5 micronaire, 82 to 83 length uniformity, 31 color and three leaf. Boman said these fiber property goals can be met or exceeded with the genetics of the varieties now planted. Length uniformity and sometimes bark contamination are factors farmers still struggle with, he said.